by Avenir Kobetski and Jakob Axelsson
What will cars talk about when they start communicating with each other? Volvo and SICS Swedish ICT have launched a collaborative project to open the computer systems of cars for the market of apps.
In a world where cars are containing increasingly sophisticated software, it comes as no surprise when computer scientists cooperate with vehicle companies. During the last couple of years SICS has increased its efforts to work together with the vehicle industry in Sweden, within areas such as data mining, networked sensor systems, and software and systems engineering.
Building on its expertise in the field of the Internet of Things, SICS is currently working on a vision of the Internet of Cars (IoC), or simply federations of vehicles and other embedded systems that interact to provide new services to their users. The idea is to let vehicles exchange the information that they normally collect, for example the state of the road, traffic jams, the exact time of arrival, etc. Handled in a smart way, such information can contribute to making trips safer, more efficient and a lot more fun.
To reach the IoC vision, several advancements are needed. First, since it is not possible to foresee all future IoC applications, there should be a way to add intelligence to the vehicles after they have left the factory, in much the same way as apps are added to today’s smartphones. However, since the safety of cars is more critical than that of typical cellphones, this requires an entirely new level of security and robustness.
In a project, initiated by SICS and Volvo, a framework for opening up computer systems of vehicles is being developed. This framework builds on Autosar, the leading automotive Electrical/Electronic (E/E) architecture standard, used in millions of cars throughout the world. As a result, Autosar is extended with a sandboxed environment, dedicated to apps. The interface between such an environment and the underlying functionality will be defined by the vehicle companies, allowing them to choose exactly which parts of the car’s system can be influenced by the apps, and which should never be touched.
Currently, initial concepts for app installation and communication of data, both within the vehicle and with the outside world, have been developed  and simulated in a desktop environment. In the next couple of months, the simulation work will be transferred from a PC to embedded hardware. A couple of credit-card computers, Raspberry Pis, will be interconnected and used to simulate electronic control units (ECUs) of a real car. Next, a number of test apps will be developed and run in the ECU simulators to evaluate the vehicle app concepts.
Some app ideas that will be tested are related to the field of construction equipment, where Volvo sees great potential to use apps to coordinate construction work. An example is scheduling of the construction vehicles of different types, eg so that the hauler doesn’t have to wait for the loader . Also, coordination between construction equipment and private cars could lead to great cost reductions and better safety at road works sites.
Another example is to equip traffic lights at intersections with a decision app, and to let them act on speed information from the approaching vehicles to optimize the traffic flow through intersections. If the speed information is exchanged directly between vehicles, the car itself can detect a stop in the traffic ahead and adapt its speed to avoid a sudden halt, etc.
The second direction of SICS research towards the IoC vision is concerned with the business infrastructure that vehicle apps will create. New innovative companies will develop apps for cars, in a similar way to what occurred in the mobile industry. This will give rise to entirely new business ecosystems, holding both great opportunities and challenges.
For instance, ways of sharing information between different parties will need to be defined, so that an app developer can implement and test their software without full access to the overall product. The distribution of rights and responsibilities between the parties are also crucial. Who is liable in a situation where an incident occurs? Also, how should the streams of income be set up and divided among the parties?
To investigate these issues, SICS is currently conducting an empirical research project based on case studies and interviews, trying to identify the primary interfaces between stakeholders in a typical IoC-ecosystem . This will be used to create a reference model, intended to provide guidance on how to organize future IoC ecosystems efficiently.
In the long run, the IoC concepts will affect the entire vehicle and transportation business. The opportunities are numerous, but the stakes are high. SICS will focus on carefully pushing both of the above research directions, with a first demonstration of app-enabled cars expected at the end of 2014.
AUTOSAR consortium: http://www.autosar.org/
Raspberry Pi community: http://www.raspberrypi.org/
 J. Axelsson, A. Kobetski: “On the Conceptual Design of a Dynamic Component Model for Reconfigurable AUTOSAR Systems”, in APRES’13, 2013.
 D. Rylander, J. Axelsson: “Lean Method to Identify Improvements for Operation Control at Quarry Sites”, in ISARC’13, 2013.
 E. Papatheocharous, J. Axelsson, J. Andersson: “Towards an Innovative Open Ecosystem Infrastructure for Federated Embedded Systems Development”, in SESOS’13, 2013.
Avenir Kobetski or Jakob Axelsson
SICS Swedish ICT
Tel: +46 72 238 92 70, +46 72 734 29 52